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Category Archives: 10 Steps To Happiness

How do you measure happiness, and how can you become happier? Outlined here are 10 steps towards happiness, with lots of practical ideas you can take now to improve your happiness and well-being.

Trying it out to be happy!

Homemade!          Half way towards our 10 steps to happiness, and this week is a really fun one:

trying out something new.

This makes much sense, but as with many things in life, putting this into practice is harder. We understand in theory that new activities, new skills, new ideas are stimulating, brain-stretching, and good for the soul. But committing the time to learning something new, or even making the choice to step out of our normal activities and expand our repertoire, takes motivation, discipline and a belief that we are worth investing in. 

But as a foil for monochrome, mundane living, learning a new skill or trying out a new activity takes a lot of beating. When we do the same things all the time, we get trapped in repetitive patterns, our physical bodies and mental pathways trudge along a well-carved-out route from which it can be hard to deviate. Our brains get stuck on repeat. But introduce something new, and suddenly a whole new part of our brain wakes up and starts firing, and that causes a breaking out from normal behaviour and thinking patterns.

Learning something new encourages a departure from the routine of life that can sometimes be dull and sap us of energy. But not only that, it is

good for our confidence

keeps us curious

mentally stimulating

stretches our creative brain functioning

beneficial to the greater good if involving some kind of volunteering or service

socially refreshing if involving others (see step two!)

good for providing a sense of accomplishment


I have recently been introduced to the craft of Decopatch (posh glue-ing and sticking). I find it utterly absorbing, and it uses a creative bit of me that for a while has lain dormant. And the most lovely things are produced, or old tatty stuff is rejuvenated into something pretty. Elder daughter and I can spend much time (and money!) in the loveliest and most inspiring of shops in the West End, Damselfly and the Queen Bee having our minds filled with new ideas and feeling the right side of our brains expanding. It is most definitely good for my soul, gives me time that is just for me/us, and allows me to switch my often-working-overtime thinking/planning left brain off whilst still doing something productive.

For my husband, learning to make bread has been a practical, creative and in some part spiritual blessing for him, and a skill from which we, and our friends, benefit (the croissants in the photo are his – it took a while to perfect them, but they are really delicious!). His renewed love of photography has provided me with inspiration, and some really lovely photos to use here. For him, it is stimulating, an escape, a reason to explore the great outdoors, and a way of blessing others.

What about you? What have you always had a hankering to try? What could you turn your hand to, or try out this week?

Appreciating the Now.

Appreciating the moment      How aware of you of what is happening around you RIGHT NOW? Sights, sounds, taste, touch, scents. Emotions, thoughts, stillness. All this can be packaged up under the rapidly growing trend called Mindfulness, and represents the fourth step to happiness: Appreciating. This is a subject dear to my heart (see Do you have any regrets? and The Now Thing). We live such fast-paced-non-stop lives with 24-hour-instant-everything at our touch-screen-fingertips that we risk missing what is happening right under our nose.

We are sucked into the demotivating mindset of

“there must be more to life than this”

without any solutions or clarity as to what that might be.

But low and behold, there IS more to life than this, whatever “this” might be for you today in your current circumstances. There are two distinct steps to mindfulness that encourage heightened awareness, and lead to appreciation –

  • being intentional ie: making a conscious, deliberate choice to be aware of what our senses are telling us in any one moment
  • accepting that information and not standing in judgement or condemnation of whatever that is.

And for me, I would add a third step that takes this to a new level, and lifts us out of ourselves and encourages us to see that we are one part of a greater whole –


The key is in the name – Appreciating. For me, thankfulness is the door out of the gerbil-wheel of non-stop-living, the key to getting off the treadmill. Notice what is around you, appreciate it, and then express thankfulness – to someone, about something, to yourself, or to Someone depending on your perspective on life. It takes the eyes off yourself, no matter how difficult your circumstances. It serves to remind that we are part of a community. We are living on an amazing planet. Our bodies are astonishing in their complexity and inner workings.

So this week, as we continue our exploration of the 10 steps to happiness, take time each day to stop and notice what is around you. Appreciate it, and be thankful and enjoy the moment of peace that follows.



Exercise your way to being happier

Exercise your way to happiness!

OK, so for me, this one is a no-brainer: exercise makes you happier. On our exploration of the 10 steps to happiness, this is number three. And with more than two decades working as a physiotherapist (physical therapist), I really do know about this subject! Of course, there are bucket-loads of information, advice, data on why exercising is good for you, how it can lighten your mood, improve self-esteem, promote better sleep, even lift depression. Were I to suggest a wee shot of morphine to get you through the day, I would be in a morsel or so of trouble. But endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that go to work in your brain during exercise, induce similar feelings to morphine – and have no negative side effects, cost nothing and have multiple benefits. So I am more than happy to recommend a bit of that! 

Exercise has to be fun otherwise we won’t stick at it. I must have said that thousands of times to folk going through their rehab after ill-health or injury. We all know what we should do, but actually doing it is a different story. Most of us don’t suffer from a lack of information, but motivation.

For me, I love being outside, and I love music, and I love being fit – running was a bit of a revelation to me, but over a year on and I am still pounding my way around the local river paths and parks. Lovely. And our favourite family thing is our new-to-us wii (we are a bit reticent on the technology front) – dancing, sports, sword fighting (GREAT for unleashing and off-loading frustration!), yoga – all become much more fun, more competitive, and more likely to be stuck at when done together. 

So – a good key to motivation is to know yourself.

What do you love to do?

How do you love to do it – on your own, with music, with a friend, in a group?

Outside or inside?

What sports really rock your boat or what have you always had a secret yearning to try? 

Exercise with a friend or in a group and you get to tick off two happiness keys at once, as your relationships will be strengthened too – bonus!

Although I am no longer working as a physio, I can’t switch it off – that awareness of what is happening in your body, the connection between body, mind and soul. The importance of good posture. Balance in all dimensions – physical, emotional, mental. The essential role of exercise in creating time to cherish and care for ourselves

I’m off to energetically and vigorously hang the washing up. And this week, how can you incorporate more exercise into your life, and run/cycle/dance/walk/bop/play your way to happiness?

And if you are looking for more tips, practical ideas and inspiration about exercise, caring for yourself and living with greater happiness, my free self coaching guide will help you with just that, plus a lot more. Simply fill in the form (and keep an eye on your spam folder as the reply sometimes ends up in there).

Relate your way to happiness

relating to your favourite people makes you happier!

“Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self-worth.” And therefore make us happier – the second key to a happier life is Relating. Relationships with our nearest and dearest, relating to our friends and wider family, our colleagues and neighbours – our connections to other mortals on this planet are at the heart of what makes us happy. So say many psychologists, scholars and scientists, who quote much research that shows a strong link between the quantity and quality of our relationships, and our health and longevity, as outlined by the Action for Happiness folk.

Now clearly, it is possible to be relating to our family and social connections a lot, but doing it badly. Sometimes when life is very busy and we are consumed with non-stop-treadmill-running, or we are in a bad place, or tough things are going on, our relationships can become functional without closeness, or characterised by anger, judgement, criticism, despair or disappointment.

Sometimes we just don’t listen properly, or are so consumed with our own situations we can’t see beyond the end of our nose.

We take others for granted, or only see what irritates us about them.

We keep meaning to phone that friend for a proper chat, but somehow never get round to it.

Sometimes we simply lose sight of what it is to have fun with our friends and nearest-and-dearest.

So what can we do about this, and improve the happiness of ourselves and our social connections in the process?

Here are some very simple suggestions to try over the next week:

  • Spend at least 10 minutes every day talking and really listening to your other half, or a close friend. Not just the functional “How was your day?” and “Can I have the car tomorrow, and it’s your turn to take the rubbish out”. But asking them how they are, what they are enjoying about life just now, what they are feeling.
  • Phone or Skype a long-distance friend for a chat, telling them why they are a special friend and what it is you value and miss about them.
  • List your top 10 favourite people, then text each one to say hi and that you love/like/value them.
  • Have a group of friends round for a board game.
  • Provide a listening ear with no agenda to a friend in crisis (and maybe some cake, see last week)
  • Invite a neighbour in for a drink or a coffee, rather than simply standing in the hallway or outside on the street blethering.
  • Tell a work colleague something about them that you appreciate and why you enjoy working with them.

What else can you do to strengthen your relationships? How can you improve your relationships and move to a happier life?

If you tried some of these ideas, let me know how you got on and what the reaction was. 

What are the 10 steps to happiness?

I'd like to be given these!

How happy are you just now? And how on earth do you measure happiness? There is much interest in happiness in the media currently. Last month, a poll commissioned by Action for Happiness found that 87% of UK adults “were found to prefer the ‘greatest overall happiness and wellbeing’, rather than the ‘greatest overall wealth’ (8%), for the society they live in.” What would you have said? And what makes you happy? Of course, happiness can often be thought to be quite a superficial concept –  a product of our external circumstances, with little bearing or relevance when life is really tough. Words like joy and fulfillment carry more depth, and suggest an inner contentedness that provides stability and peace despite any external storms and challenges. 

But there seems to be more to happiness than perhaps we think. In a series of programmes on the radio this week, entitled “In search of Ourselves – a History of Psychology and the Mind”, the presenter is exploring the UK government’s plan for a national ‘happiness index’, including looking back over history to the roots of our search for ourselves. Well, to me this is just fascinating and right up my street!

So I dug a bit deeper, and found via the Action for Happiness site, 10 steps to happiness. Fabulously, they spell the acrostic GREAT DREAM – some very clever people have worked hard to come up with that – and the list is intriguing. So in my quest to encourage you to think, be your best self and life a full life, I thought it would be fun to expand on the steps over the next ten weeks,  give you practical ideas to try each step out, and see how your happiness indicator changes over that time! 

Step 1: Giving.

Random acts of kindness, giving of ourselves in lots of different ways, helping out others – all of this makes us happier and healthier. This probably won’t come as a huge surprise, but equally, how much fun to do, and how easy to start incorporating into your life right now. You can give money, time, help, yourself:

  • buy someone a wee unexpected gift, treat a friend in need to something delicious (I would love to receive these tasty morsels!), help someone out with a bill
  • help someone declutter part of their house that has been getting on top of them
  • phone an elderly relative for a chat
  • provide a listening ear to a friend in difficulty
  • play a game with your children on their terms
  • give someone a big, unexpected hug (Younger daughter excels at this)

What could you do? How many other ways of giving can you think of and put into practice over this next week to become a happier you?